Glial Cell Activation and Immune Responses in Glaucoma: A Systematic Review of Human Postmortem Studies of the Retina and Optic Nerve

Aging Dis. 2024 Mar 2. doi: 10.14336/AD.2024.0103. Online ahead of print.


Although researched extensively the understanding regarding mechanisms underlying glaucoma pathogenesis remains limited. Further, the exact mechanism behind neuronal death remains elusive. The role of neuroinflammation in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death has been prominently theorised. This review provides a comprehensive summary of neuroinflammatory responses in glaucoma. A systematic search of Medline and Embase for articles published up to 8th March 2023 yielded 32 studies using post-mortem tissues from glaucoma patients. The raw data were extracted from tables and text to calculate the standardized mean differences (SMDs). These studies utilized post-mortem tissues from glaucoma patients, totalling 490 samples, compared with 380 control samples. Among the included studies, 27 reported glial cell activation based on changes to cellular morphology and molecular staining. Molecular changes were predominantly attributed to astrocytes (62.5%) and microglia (15.6%), with some involvement of Muller cells. These glial cell changes included amoeboid microglial cells with increased CD45 or HLA-DR intensity and hypertrophied astrocytes with increased glial fibrillary acidic protein labelling. Further, changes to extracellular matrix proteins like collagen, galectin, and tenascin-C suggested glial cells’ influence on structural changes in the optic nerve head. The activation of DAMPs-driven immune response and the classical complement cascade was reported and found to be associated with activated glial cells in glaucomatous tissue. Increased pro-inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) were also linked to glial cells. Glial cell activation was also associated with mitochondrial, vascular, metabolic and antioxidant component disruptions. Association of the activated glial cells with pro-inflammatory responses, dysregulation of homeostatic components and antigen presentation indicates that glial cell responses influence glaucoma progression. However, the exact mechanism triggering these responses and underlying interactions remains unexplored. This necessitates further research using human samples for an increased understanding of the precise role of neuroinflammation in glaucoma progression.

PMID:38502591 | DOI:10.14336/AD.2024.0103